As host of the popular fishing show “Local Knowledge” TV show, Mercury Pro Team member Capt. Ali Hussainy is likely to drop in just about anywhere throughout San Diego and Baja California or Florida’s Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic waters. Wherever he goes, he’ll always have a dropper rig ready for action. Reason being, it’s pure fish-catching perfection.
“It’s so easy; it catches everything,” Hussainy said. “It’s one of the simplest rigs to tie and it works anywhere you fish. It is the most universal and fool-proof rig in the world.”
No exaggeration, the rig Hussainy favors requires no advanced skill or awareness. It follows an easily replicated pattern for attaching weight and hook(s) with an easily mastered surgeon’s loop and it presents baits in a stationary, vertical manner. Ideally suited for bottom fishing, the dropper rig keeps your bait elevated and ensures effective presentations where fish are sure to see them.
Forming the Rig
While the dropper rig works with most any type of line, Hussainy prefers 60-pound Seaguar fluorocarbon. From his experience, this option is strong enough to handle whatever he hooks, while the diameter ensures proper bait posture.
“I use the heavier line because it’s springy and that makes the hook stand out,” Hussainy said.
Starting with an 8-foot piece of fluorocarbon, he’ll make a loop at the end of the line, form an overhand knot, pass the loop through the knot again while it’s still open, then tighten the whole thing. He’ll then come up about a couple of feet and form another dropper loop. Repeating the process for a third dropper loop gives him two bait droppers and one for his weight.
Hussainy starts by attaching a torpedo sinker to the bottom loop. He does so by pushing the loop through the weight’s top eye, pulling the weight forward and passing it through the loop, then snugging the loop against the back of the weight. Following this process for the hooks completes the rig.
With each step, moistening the line facilitates knot formation in two ways: First, moisture helps the line slide to cinch the knot. Also, even the brief friction of line sliding creates heat, which can subtly weaken your line. It’s a minor impact, but you don’t want any compromised points when you have the fish of a lifetime on your line.
Unlike a traditional cinching knot, this loop connection relies on tension to keep the weight and hooks in place. The harder a fish pulls, the tighter the connection holds.
The biggest advantage of using a dropper loop rig is versatility. Because you’re not tying directly to a weight or hook, you can make tackle changes as needed.
Tackle Tips: Hussainy likes the torpedo weight because it doesn’t hang up as much. He’ll use 8-20 ounces depending on wind and current.
“We always start light and scale up,” Hussainy said. “You just want to maintain bottom contacts with that rig.
“I’ll use 6/0-7/0 circle hooks, because (that size) prevents small fish. The larger hooks won’t fit in the mouth of a smaller fish.”
Room to Work: Explaining his rule of thumb for dropper distance, Hussainy said: “Leave yourself enough space so the loops don’t wrap around themselves and tangle. You want to make the space between loops double the length of your loops. If I’m using 12-inch droppers, I’m tying them 2 1/2 feet apar
Hussainy said he uses shorter loops when he’s targeting smaller fish with dead bait. Longer loops are best for live baits, as the greater length gives them more room to swim around.
When fishing his West Coast home waters, Hussainy targets various rockfish species and yellowtail. In Florida waters, where the dropper rig is often known as the “chicken rig,” the main species mix includes red grouper, black grouper, mutton snapper and mangrove snapper.
Off the California coast, Hussainy generally fishes in 100-300 feet, while his Florida work varies from the shallower Gulf of Mexico to the Atlantic Ocean where the bottom drops offs closer to shore. In either case, hard bottom — usually rock — presents the food court scenario that attracts his target species.
Knowing that these life centers offer permanent homes for rockfish or Florida groupers and snappers, as well as pelagic species like the California yellowtail, Hussainy carries a mix of live mackerel or sardines, frozen squid and artificial baits — Berkley Gulp! Grubs, mostly. Individual species preferences will vary, so the variety helps ensure a productive day.
Good thing about a dropper rig is the ability to target pelagics like tuna. Noting that he’s caught bluefin up to 200 pounds on a dropper rig, Hussainy said he’ll adjust the rig for high-end targets.
"You can tie that rig with one hook and drop it right the fish when tuna are running deep and don’t want to come to the surface,” he said. “This allows you to pinpoint deep fish.”
Hussainy links his dropper loop rig to his main line by tying a swivel to the top of the fluorocarbon with a uni knot. Best part about this simple, effective rig is how quickly he can tie them.
“We do a lot of bottom fishing and you’re gonna get snagged and you’re gonna get cut off, so I’ll sit on the couch at night and tie up several of these rigs,” Hussainy said. “I’ll put them into individual ziplock bags and I’m ready to go bottom fishing the next day.”
And being ready is the name of the game. So, if you’re looking for a rig that is incredibly easy to tie and incredibly effective for catching just about everything, make sure the surgeon’s loop in in your repertoire.